Freshman year of college, my roommate and I decided to shed a few pounds using Slim-Fast shakes. We bought a case each, prepared to replace breakfast and lunch with liquid weight-loss for the next two weeks. I lasted three days, chasing cans of “vanilla” shakes with bottles of water to avoid the aftertaste. She, having chosen chocolate, made it four. The leftovers were still under our beds when we moved out. We had fallen for a common lure, an enticement that beckons thousands of weight-conscious individuals. We had been suckered in by a fad diet.
As the name implies, fad diets are intensely popular. They offer an opportunity to drop a jeans size, twenty pounds or unwanted bulge in a matter of weeks, if not days. You can replace your regular meals with a bowl of cereal, shakes, bars or liquid. You can eliminate a particular food group – meat, carbs or dairy – or you can eat only at certain times – before dawn, after five or at twenty-minute intervals. Whatever you opt for, you’re bound to lose some weight, a lot of money and most of the nutrition in your life, for a short period of time. Limiting your calories via fake substitution, complete eradication or obsessively strict scheduling will not help you in the long run. The second you step away from the diet, the pounds will pile back on, in the form of body fat. Meanwhile, what you had lost probably wasn’t body fat but rather water weight and muscle mass. So, you’re going to end up with more fat, less muscle and a confused, unhealthy body. That pretty much defeats the diet’s purpose; doesn’t it?
So, when looking for a weight-loss plan, avoid these roller-coaster diets by avoiding anything that involves:
• Speedy weight loss – you want to lose weight gradually. When you first begin a diet, you may drop a dramatic amount, but after that, the loss should be no more than 2 pounds a week. Anything more is unhealthy.
• Results without effort – if you don’t have to give up your favorite fatty foods or your sloth-like tendencies, something’s not right. Real health means a balanced diet with limited “bad” fats and regular exercise.
• An empty wallet – diets that require you to dish out more money than food generally don’t have your success in mind.
• A drastic lifestyle change – chances are you aren’t going to stick to a diet that makes you do a complete 180. Little alterations make large changes.
While avoiding those traps, look for a method that involves a balanced diet, with variety. Consuming different foods ensures that you get all of the nutrients you need. Also avoid saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium, and pay attention to calories. If you feel like you really need a regimen and can’t make the changes on your own, research the diets, choosing the healthiest options for your body. These will generally be the ones that focus more on consuming lots of fruits, vegetable and fiber, and less on cutting out food groups. Researchers, for example, recently analyzed eight popular diets and found that the Ornish plan and Weight Watchers High Carb diet were the best of their kind. Atkins, on the other hand, hit rock bottom. So, don’t base your diet on popularity or short-term results; look instead for something that will guide you to a healthier lifestyle, something that embraces a nutritious diet.